NFL rumors: Russell Wilson era could come to a dishonorable, premature end in Denver

The Russell Wilson era in Denver could be over sooner than anyone expected.

Dec 24, 2023; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson (3) before the game
Dec 24, 2023; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson (3) before the game / Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
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When the Denver Broncos acquired Russell Wilson in a blockbuster trade ahead of the 2022-23 season, they instantly became Super Bowl contenders. At least that's what most NFL fans predicted. The Broncos had shown signs of improvement, finishing 7-10 in the 2021-22 season and looking like a team that was just a quarterback away.

The Broncos had an elite defense and good weapons including Javonte Williams, Jerry Jeudy, and Courtland Sutton. They did look, on paper, like a team ready to make a legitimate run after adding Russell Wilson who was considered a top five or ten quarterback at the time.

Unfortunately for the Broncos, the 2022-23 season was an unmitigated disaster. Everyone took a step back, Nathaniel Hackett couldn't even finish the season as the team's head coach, and most notably, Russell Wilson looked like an absolute shell of himself. This season was Wilson's chance to redeem himself with new head coach Sean Payton.

After the first three games of the season, the third of which saw Denver allow 70 points in Miami, it looked like their season was over. However, they bounced back to win six of their next eight games to get themselves right in the thick of a playoff spot. A 1-3 record since then including an embarrassing loss at home against the lowly Patriots on Christmas Eve has Denver on the cusp of watching their season, and potential Russell Wilson's Broncos career, come to an end.

Broncos could look to cut Russell Wilson at season's end to help future cap space

The Broncos currently sit at 7-8, third in the AFC West and on the cusp of elimination. Perhaps if they win out against the Chargers and in Las Vegas, they can punch their ticket to the postseason, but even then they'd need a lot to go right for them. This loss on Christmas Eve against New England was crushing for the entire Broncos franchise.

Despite what'll likely result in another year of no playoff football in Denver, Wilson has certainly been better. The 35-year-old has completed 66.4% of his passes for 3,070 yards with 26 touchdowns compared to eight interceptions. He has not been the awful quarterback he was last season, but the question is if he's worth holding onto. The answer very well might be no.

The money for next season is already guaranteed. The Broncos will be paying Wilson $39 million whether he's in Denver or not. The Broncos do, however, have an out for the 2025 season. If the team releases him by March 17, they would not have to commit to paying the $37 million they owe him in 2025. Yes, it means they'd be paying Wilson in 2024 to likely compete against them, but it gives them a chance to restart earlier.

The chances of Denver doing anything more than squeak into a Wild Card spot and losing on Wild Card weekend on the road with Russell Wilson are quite slim. Accepting that now and opening up a whole bunch of cap space for the 2025 season while giving the franchise more time to find their quarterback of the future seems like the best play.

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